Avoid getting entangled in fraudulent investments

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Focus on Finance by Wm. Steve Wright

By Steve Wright

Question: I am an educated person and consider myself to be intelligent. I hate to miss out on an opportunity, but even I have been duped a time or two by “fast talkers” trying to part me from my money. How can I eliminate that problem in the future?

Answer: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That’s always good advice. But the hard part is recognizing when “good” becomes “too good.” And these days, investment fraudsters specialize in making sure the deals they tout appear both good and true.  

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority helps investors avoid investment fraud. Here are some of its tips.

Fraudsters don’t just go after the isolated, frail and gullible. They use sophisticated marketing techniques to lure targets who are self-reliant when it comes to making decisions; optimistic; have above-average financial knowledge and income; are college educated, who experienced a recent health or financial setback and are open to listening to new ideas or sales pitches.

Fraudsters tailor their pitches to match the psychological profiles of their targets. They look for your Achilles heel by asking seemingly benign questions — about your health, family, political views, hobbies or prior employers. Once they know which buttons to push, they’ll bombard you with a flurry of influence tactics, which can leave even the savviest person in a haze.

What you can do:

Recognize the lines they use.

  • The “Phantom Riches” line: “These gas wells are guaranteed to produce $6,800 a month in income.”
  • The “Source Credibility” line:  “Believe me, as a senior vice president of ABC Firm, I would never sell an investment that doesn’t produce.”
  • The “Social Consensus” line: “This is how ___ got his start. I know it’s a lot of money, but I’m in — and so is my mom and half her church — and it’s worth every dime.”
  • The “Reciprocity” line: “I’ll give you a break on my commission if you buy now — half off.”
  • The “Scarcity” or “Hurry Up” line: “There are only two units left, so I’d sign today if I were you.”

End the conversation.

Practice saying “no.” Simply tell a caller, “I’m sorry, I’m not interested. Thanks for calling. Goodbye.” And hang up immediately.

Turn the tables and ask questions.

  • Are you and your firm registered with Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Securities and Exchange Commission, a state securities regulator? If so, which one(s)?

An investment salesperson must be licensed, and his firm must be registered with FINRA, the Securities and Exchange Commission or a state securities regulator.

Take your name off solicitation lists. 

Remove your name by contacting:

While no one wants to miss out on an opportunity, quite often the risk is far greater than the gain.

Wm. Steve Wright is managing member of The Wright Legacy Group, LLC.


What is Focus on Finance?

Have a question about your finances? Submit it to our panel of local experts who answer your questions on The News-Enterprise Money page every Sunday.

A panel of local experts with experience and knowledge of this community respond to questions about 401(k)s, 403(b)s, annuities, certificates of deposit, home mortgages and/or refinancing, investing in the stock market, financing retirement, reducing income taxes and related topics. Email your questions to: focusonfinance@thenewsenterprise.com or mail to: Melanie Parker, The Wright Legacy Group, LLC, 1104 Julianna Court, Elizabethtown, KY 42701.